In preparing for Christmas, like most of you, I have read and re-read the story of Elizabeth and Mary the last few weeks. I am pondering the mystery and beauty of this part of the Christmas story.
Once again, I am struck by how the whole narrative centers on a mother and her baby. The King of the Universe, Creator, Redeemer, Miracle Working, Healing God came into a WOMB. I loved having a newborn in our family at Christmas. Two of our granddaughters were born in Dec and I remember holding them and staring at those little faces, wondering what Mary must have been feeling - is there anything more vulnerable than a newborn?
We do an impromptu Christmas drama on Christmas eve with our grandkids for the parents. One year when Julia and Halle were around 4 and 5, they both wanted to be Mary. Make no mistake about it: Baby Jesus may be the star from Christmas Day on, but its all about Mary on Christmas Eve. I should have foreseen this dilemma, and so the only solution to avoiding a total meltdown before the presentation was for Joseph to have 2 Mary's that year. Yes, friends, we had a polygamous Christmas story. And actually we had it for a couple or years until I was able to come up with a fancy angel ensemble that much prettier than Mary's drab robe and scarf. We are under grace and I was counting on that!
Simeon prophesied to Mary that "a sword would pierce her soul" and how true that proved to be. From her perspective all of Jesus' earthly life was a progression of separation from her - from his remaining in Jerusalem at age 12, being "about My Father's business", to declaring that His true family were those who believed in Him, even to relinquishing the care of His mother to John while He was on the cross. The scripture says that Mary "pondered these things in her heart". Thinking, remembering, trying to make sense of all of it, and wondering about His future - like all mothers.
In Gen 3, after the fall, God spoke of Eve's (and all other mothers') pain in childbirth. The longer I live, the more I see this prophesy demonstrated not just in childbirth but all through a child's life. Mothers agonize over a baby's sickness, a preschoolers tantrums, a school age child's struggles, a teen's sullenness, a young adult's relationships, a married child's choices and then she moves into grandmother-hood! And the cycle begins again, except it's both generations to rejoice or worry over. "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child" - I'm pretty sure that saying should be in the Bible, it must have been accidentally deleted.
Motherhood is at the crux of Christmas - a barren old woman, Elizabeth, giving birth to a son, who will prepare the way for the Lord. Mary, birthing the Son of God, who through His sacrifice would purchase salvation for men and women of every tribe and tongue. These 2 women stand at the crossroads of the Biblical story of redemption, bridging the Old and New Testaments. Motherhood. Childbirth. Family. Just so amazing.